Describe how the three branches of criminal justice operate as a cohesive system by analyzing their collaboration and communication practices.
The American criminal justice system has three branches, each of which has its own role to play in the criminal justice system as a whole (Gerstenfeld, 2006). Without each branch of the criminal justice system working properly, the criminal justice system would fall apart—each part of the system plays its role, while simultaneously giving power and legitimacy to the other branches of the system (Gerstenfeld, 2006). To function properly, however, each branch must be able to collaborate with the other branches and ensure agreement.
The first line of defense in the criminal justice system is law enforcement (Gerstenfeld, 2006). Law enforcement is responsible for detaining subjects and them bringing them to the court system; however, law enforcement also works with corrections extensively to ensure that individuals who have been let out of their correctional facility on bail do not commit wrongdoing again (Chambliss, 2011). This means that constant communication and collaboration must happen between the courts, the corrections system, and the law enforcement system (Gerstenfeld, 2006).
The courts and corrections are also linked, because the courts are responsible for ensuring that the individual receives the proper amount of time in the proper institution (or whatever punishment fits his or her crime) (Gerstenfeld, 2006). The integration between these three branches of the criminal justice system is incredibly important for the overall success of the system—there is no doubt that a breakdown in communication would mean an inability to collaborate throughout the system on every level (Gerstenfeld, 2006).
Identify the impacts of historical aspects of law enforcement, courts, and corrections on shaping the current role of the criminal justice practitioner.
There were many parts of the criminal justice system that were first developed very early on in America’s history, including the traditions of Constitutional law and Constitutional protections for the accused (Gerstenfeld, 2006). Although the understanding of different parts of the criminal justice system has changed over the years, the general structure has remained remarkably similar since its inception (Gerstenfeld, 2006). In colonial America, there were a number of positions that were taken that are still utilized today: for instance, there was a county sheriff that was charged with the protection of the citizens within the confines of the town (Mays & Ruddell, 2012).
Because of the nature of Constitutional law, the development of prisons has always been an issue in the United States as well. Until the late 1800s, every county or city had to take care of its own prison system; however, once the federal government took over many of the prisons, there were more standard expectations for prisons that remain pertinent to this day (Mays & Ruddell, 2012).
The criminal justice system as it exists today is complex and many-faceted, but most of what the system does today has its roots in American history and American law. Understanding that the criminal justice system is structured to reflect the ethics and moral code of the citizens of the United States is important when working within the structure, but is also important when trying to understand how to change or alter the study to be more effective from a legal or ethical standpoint (Mays & Ruddell, 2012).
Illustrate how the use of emerging technology impacts the performance of the criminal justice practitioner.
Technology has had an important impact on all levels of the criminal justice system. When thinking about the criminal justice system and technology, it is easy to think of all the improvements in investigations that have given us such strong tools to catch perpetrators—the criminal justice system now has more tools than ever before that are designed to allow them to capture criminals based on the information that they leave behind at crime scenes (Gerstenfeld, 2006). DNA technology is one of the most important changes that has been made to the criminal justice system, but it is certainly not the only change that has been made in recent years (Gerstenfeld, 2006).
Changes in administrative procedure in every branch of the criminal justice system has made it much easier for the criminal justice system to keep track of offenders. It is much harder for the criminal justice system to allow anyone to “slip through the cracks” so to speak, because today, there are different programs available that keep better records of the people in the system. In addition, technology has allowed for things like sex offender lists to be created under Megan’s Law, meaning that the criminal justice system can do more to educate the people of various communities regarding dangerous individuals (Gerstenfeld, 2006). Improved technologies mean faster reaction and response times, better turnaround on cases, and a higher rate of completion of cases—it seems almost unimaginable to go back to a time before the use of modern technology in the American criminal justice system (Gerstenfeld, 2006).
Apply basic principles of criminal and constitutional law to common criminal justice situations in a way that adheres to ethical and professional standards.
There are a number of important aspects of Constitutional law that apply to criminal justice, including the right of all accused people to an attorney, the right to be presumed innocent, and the right to be protected from searches or seizures without a warrant (Gerstenfeld, 2006). During an arrest, for instance, law enforcement has a number of important guidelines that they should follow: the accused should not be subjected to unnecessary force, the accused should be read his or her rights, and so on. Although not all law enforcement officers follow protocol all the time, the vast majority are good at making sure all the proper legal requirements for chain of evidence and suspect protection are met (Gerstenfeld, 2006). This is particularly important because without following the proper protocol, the accused often cannot be brought to trial (Gerstenfeld, 2006).
Each segment of the criminal justice system has different rules and ethical standards to adhere to, but all the parts of the system are tasked with upholding the laws of the United States of America. While doing this job, they are required to treat all individuals in the system with respect and understanding, and presume that they are innocent until a trial proves that they have committed a crime (Gerstenfeld, 2006). It is the job of the courts and independent investigatory bodies to determine whether all the proper rules are being followed and whether standards are being upheld to the highest degree within the criminal justice system of the United States of America (Gerstenfeld, 2006).
Differentiate between the roles of practitioners in each of the three branches of the criminal justice system for career path decisions
The role of the law enforcement branch is to work on investigations into potential wrongdoing in society (Gerstenfeld, 2006). This means that law enforcement is responsible for collecting suspects and evidence so that the state, county, or federal government can build a case against an individual or individuals and potentially sentence them to time in the corrections system (Mays & Ruddell, 2012). The law enforcement branch is often the first branch that individuals come in contact with during an investigation, and it is the branch of government that individuals are most likely to deal with on a regular, daily basis (Mays & Ruddell, 2012).
The role of the courts is to examine the evidence that is collected by the law enforcement branch of the criminal justice system and determine if a crime has been committed. If the crime has been committed and the system feels able to prosecute, the system will go forward with the prosecution of the individual and potentially, after the trial, turn the individual over to the department of corrections, or the corrections branch of the criminal justice system (Gerstenfeld, 2006). The corrections branch houses individuals who have committed certain types of crimes, but it also keeps track of individuals who are out on bail or who are out on probation. If these individuals violate the terms of their bail or probation, they can be brought back into the corrections system and potentially go to jail or prison as a result of the various violations that they could have committed (Gerstenfeld, 2006).
Chambliss, W. (2011). Corrections. Thousand Oaks: SAGE Publications.
Gerstenfeld, P. (2006). Criminal justice. Pasadena, Calif.: Salem Press.
Mays, G., & Ruddell, R. (2012). Do the crime, do the time. Santa Barbara, Calif.: Praeger.